Air suspensions replace steel spring suspension systems with bags that utilise compressed air that functions like a spring. A compressor or air pump is installed that uses the engine or the electric system to fill the air suspension with highly compressed air and lift the axles from the chassis. Air suspension systems provide a smoother ride than metal springs and are also more effective at levelling the vehicle in uneven driving conditions. Air suspension systems also sit closer to the ground and are used to lower vehicles.
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There are three basic types of air suspensions: the double convoluted, the tapered sleeve and the rolling sleeve. The double convoluted air suspension is used in front-driven suspensions and is able to carry more weight than the other types. The double convoluted system is used in many vehicles that carry loads, like trucks. It is called double convoluted because it is made up of two air bags that are connected by a short stroke. Tapered sleeve air suspensions are conical and are used in rear suspensions in vehicles that do not have heavy load requirements. Tapered sleeve air suspensions are used in vehicles where the smoothness of the ride is of the utmost importance, like luxury sedans. Rolling sleeve air suspensions are cylindrical and are also used on rear suspensions. Rolling sleeve air suspensions are used in vehicles that need excellent handling, like sports cars.
Air suspension systems have several major benefits over steel spring suspension systems. Air suspensions have a wide turning range and don't require the adjustments that steel springs would require to reach the same level of turning capacity. Most air springs progressively adjust to different compression levels, which often provides a greater level of handling than spring systems. Air suspensions are also easier to customise than spring systems, meaning that individual vehicle owners can choose their own levels of softness or hardness by easy tuning methods. Air suspensions are also usually much better at carrying heavy loads while still providing a comfortable ride. Many hot rod and customised car enthusiasts also use air suspensions to give their vehicle a customised look or "stance," meaning they change the way it sits, tilting the vehicle forward or backward.
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